Hearing set for feedback on charter school

Published 12:11 am Monday, May 12, 2014

NATCHEZ — Natchez residents will have the chance to voice their opinion later this month on a proposed charter school in the area.

The Charter School Authorizer Board voted last week to host public hearings in the three Mississippi communities where charter schools could eventually be opened.

In Natchez, the Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation wants to open the Phoenix Early College Charter School, serving grades 9-12.

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The public hearing will be May 22 in the Nelson Multi-Purpose Room of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, located at 11 Co-Lin Circle.

Phoenix Project Community Development Foundation Inc. was created in part by Natchez native Iretha Beyah, who has advocated for charter schools in the area before, including in Fayette, Waterproof and Ferriday.

The group is seeking to open an early college high school model that would have open enrollment for students in ninth through 12th grades, with a plan of opening to 75, ninth grade students in 2015.

The school would increase each year in grade level until reaching 12th grade in 2019 with a total of 300 students in the school.

The charter school will likely be located on the campus of Alcorn State University, according to Beyah and the group’s 192-page application.

The school’s curriculum would revolve around project-based learning and character and leadership development, among other instructional methods.

Enrollment into Phoenix Early College Charter School would be by open lottery. If the number of applications exceeds the number of seats allotted, applications would be drawn to fill the seats. The remaining applications would be drawn and placed on the PECCS waiting list for seats that may become available.

A technical review committee conducted capacity interviews with the three applicant groups last week, trying to probe the applicants’ readiness and ability to deliver on what they promise in their applications.

The board plans to vote on applications June 2, finalizing contracts with approved schools later that month. The applications are available online at charterschoolboard.ms.gov.

Board Chairman Tommie Cardin said that he plans to moderate each hearing and that each applicant will give a presentation about their plans. He said that he plans about an hour of public comment, allotting up to 5 minutes apiece to people who want to talk, but less if there are many commenters.

“The comments they make need to be directed toward the applications and the schools,” Cardin said. “I’m not going to allow a forum to vent on whether charter schools are going to exist or not.

“That decision was made by the Legislature and it’s our job to implement them.”

Written comments can be emailed to the board at charterschools@mississippi.edu or mailed to the board at 3825 Ridgewood Road, Jackson MS 39211.